Note to dog owners: A fitness tracker won’t cure your pooch (or you)

Pet owners in recent years have gotten used to the idea that there’s very little that money can’t buy for their beloved dogs and cats, from high-end spas to designer clothing.

Now comes the dog fitness tracker Whistle. The  $99.95 device promises to keep tabs on how Fido spends his time, developing trends and compiling reports that give an inside look into how he is behaving compared to other dogs (or even himself a year ago).

But the most significant piece of Whistle’s monitoring is its communication with veteranarians. Essentially, you can bring your Whistle to the doggie doctor and she can tell you whether or not Fido’s behavior is consistent with a host of data provided by Whistle’s cloud system. The idea is that dips in sleep patterns or playtime could lead to an early diagnosis of a health problem.

It’s a notion that obviously resonates deeply with pet owners, particularly those who have had a dog or cat die from an undiagnosed health condition. But the likelihood of getting this early dianosis thanks to Whistle seem pretty slim. Frankly, it’s a reach to say that a fitness tracker can be used as an early detection device — for dogs or for humans. Sure, when there are severe dips in energy and stamina, a fitness tracker can present a stark picture of that, but it’s more about noticing subtle changes in day-to-day activity than it is about treating illnesses.

There’s no medical evidence to suggest that a fitness tracker improves health or quality of life, much less provides an early warning system for illness. An article earlier this year by Wired said it best: these devices are behavior tools, but not much else.

So where does that leave Whistle, and the day-to-day health of your dog? It’s better to view fitness trackers of any kind as devices geared towards accountability, rather than cures for obesity or other health problems. And you may not be so enamored when your tracker tips you off that your dog just needs more exercise.